Emily Dickinson is well-known as a poet who lived a secluded and sheltered life. Many of her poems focus on subjects of death and dying. In “Because I could not stop for death”, Emily Dickinson expresses her very personal thoughts on death. She presents these thoughts in the form of a poem in which she shares her feelings and philosophies as someone who experienced life as a sheltered recluse. This paper will review Emily Dickinson’s poem, and will evaluate her use of familiar sensory stimuli to describe the three stages of life as well as her use of metaphors and tone to illuminate death in a pleasant light.
In this poem, the speaker’s encounter with death is similar to a courtship. In the first stanza of the poem the character Death is introduced as playing the role of the speaker’s suitor. In this way, this poem about death takes on an unexpected light tone, giving the reader a sense that the speaker is content to die and able to approach it with a sense of calm. ...view middle of the document...
From this the reader is able to ascertain the further the speaker’s comfort with death. The speaker recalls the scenes in this order; they first passed a school where children were visible in the yard, second they passed fields of grain having reached a suitable growth to pasture, and thirdly they passed a sunset. Shaw’s interpretation of the imagery in this poem coincides with this theory. This can be verified by this excerpt from his review:
Figuratively the poem may symbolize the three stages of life: "School, where Children strove" (9) may represent childhood; "Fields of Gazing Grain" (11), maturity; and "Setting Sun" (12) old age. Viewing the progression of these stages-life, to death, to eternity-as a continuum invests these isolated, often incomprehensible events with meaning. From her eternal perspective, the speaker comprehends that life, like the "Horses Heads" (23), leads "toward Eternity" (24). (Shaw 20-22).
While Dickinson’s use of imagery in the third stanza can be interpreted as an allegory for life in death, it is not the only technic used in this piece alluding to her philosophy on death.
In a poetry review, Patricia Engle surmises that the final stanza could be suggestive of the existence of life after death. With the final line of the poem, the poet uses specific choice words and punctuation to give a sense of continuation, “Were toward Eternity–” (Dickenson 487-488). The direct reference to eternity and the dash that follows is the equivalent of slapping on a “to be continued” message on a series finale episode of a canceled television program. Engle’s perception of this poem identifies with this theory. This can be verified by this excerpt from her review:
this last stanza may stand as a wry commentary of the speaker's discovery that despite her willful and somewhat defiant nature, that carriage was headed to Eternity anyway--some aspect of one's life force or soul will live on, whether one wants it to or not.
The speaker's last stop and final resting place. The house is a metaphor for the grave. Dickinson wants to enforce the idea that the speaker accepts and is comfortable with dying. She could have described the claustrophobic coffin, but she didn't. She chose a metaphor familiar to the readers to illustrate the calmness of the speaker.